In all our trials, we are to cling to the Savior.
When Jesus said, “I am the way” (John 14:6, NKJV), he issued a powerful proclamation to his church. Tragically, we have not fully understood the power behind his words here. I believe if the church today truly grasped the simple statement that Jesus is the way, we would once and for all end our fleshly strivings to try to please the Lord and instead trust him for his promised favor.
When most of us face personal discouragement or sin, we end up sitting in a depressing fog of failure. We feel condemned with a black cloud hanging over our heads. I speak of believers who love Jesus passionately, whose one desire is to please him and do his perfect will. They have given him their whole heart, and the world has no meaning for them other than to fulfill his purposes. They can honestly say, “Live or die, I am the Lord’s.”
I believe the greatest pain that such a devoted lover of Christ can experience is a sense of having failed God. A tender heart toward Jesus becomes easily downcast if it experiences the slightest loss of radiant first love. There is grief whenever any lust or compromise creeps in. Such Christians know Jesus is the way out because he has delivered them many times before from prisons of lust, habits and sins of all descriptions. He has been their way into joy, rest and peace before.
Yet here they sit, still in a prison, still in a haze of darkness, burdened with fear, guilt and condemnation, still not free.
Paul talked much about being cast down and struggling with the flesh but not being in despair.
Paul insisted that all of our testings are for a purpose. He wrote, “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:4-6).
Paul gave us the reason why every devoted servant endures special testing and tribulations. God brings them into particular hard places so they may find the consolation of the Holy Spirit.
You, too, have an accuser telling you how weak, cold and indifferent you have become, how short of God’s glory you constantly fall. How do you handle this kind of haranguing from the devil? How can you come out from under such a dark cloud?
Paul showed us the answer. We are to stay close to our Savior who is Christ. “Holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God” (Colossians 2:19). The victory is all in holding onto Jesus.
Most of us resist this. Instead of being nourished in Christ with childlike faith, we set about to work our own deliverance. Often, we do this through works. Believing we can make up our lack to God somehow, we determine to appease him by our human endeavors.
Many Christians carry around an illegal load of guilt, fear and condemnation.
I call this burden “illegal” because it is not of God. He never gave it to us. On the contrary, he is displeased with it. As long as we carry it, it is an affront and a reproach to him. It shows we believe he is a hard taskmaster.
No, this burden is of our own doing; it reveals an ignorance of God’s Word. It is based on raw unbelief, not conviction of the Holy Spirit, and it robs us of serving the Lord with joy and thanksgiving.
I ask you, in the midst of your own trial, have you ever turned to Bible passages that smite you, hitting you in the gut? This opens the door to the accuser who comes to you, saying, “See, you have not measured up to God’s holy standard. You’ve failed him, and he has been forced to hide his face from you. God is not smiling on you right now. He is waiting for you to get your act together first.” That is a total misappropriation of Old Testament truth. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus will never leave nor forsake us. “For he himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
Settle it in your heart right now. It doesn’t matter what issue you’re struggling with or what has happened in your heart. If you reach out to the Lord in repentance and call upon his name, he will not turn away from you. God reconciled you to himself while you were still his enemy; how much more will he reconcile you to himself now as you come to him?
Paul warned against trying to appease the Lord through fleshly works and sacrifices.
The apostle said, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement” (Colossians 2:18, NAS). Paul called the act of abasing ourselves “delightful” to our flesh and said it defrauds us of our true reward.
He asked, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23, NKJV). Simply put, none of our works can keep us from sinning.
Whenever you go through a struggle or trial, the devil will try to convince you to throw yourself fully into works, especially ones you see as “spiritual.” You find yourself thinking, “I need time away from everybody, to shut myself in with God and seek him night and day. I’ll call on him loudly, lay hold of him, storm the gates of heaven and break every evil power in me. I’ll emerge from this shut-in experience a new person. All my prayers will be unblocked. I’ll be so devoted and contrite that the Lord will have to hear my prayers.” No! This kind of demanding expectation is pure heathenism. I know because it once described me.
Beloved, we never do the prevailing. Jesus has already prevailed and won our victory. How can we fight a battle that’s already been won?
Are you still wrestling for a victory that Jesus has won for you? Are you still trying to prevail over something he has prevailed over? If so, then you’re not holding onto Christ, enjoying the resources that are yours in him. Yes, we all need more prayer, more diligence in God’s Word, more brokenness and intensity; but if we pursue these things in an effort to earn God’s favor and blessing, it is of no value. It is all “filthy rags.”
The only way you can increase in spiritual growth and maturity is by drawing nourishment from the true vine. Hold fast to this incredible truth: Jesus is the lone way out of every sin, every struggle, every difficulty. You are complete in him.
Paul complimented the Colossians not for their praying or fasting or many good works but for their steadfastness of faith in Christ as their resource and supply.
“For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5). Paul exhorted these Christians to continue in such faith. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in his sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:21-23).
Beloved, this is when good works really count: as they are done in faith. When you come into this kind of freedom, seeing clearly where your victory is, then you can enter God’s courts with true praise and thanksgiving. When that happens, you can rightly pray for the whole world and no longer be stuck on your own guilt and condemnation.
Your favor and blessing have already been won. Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and everything you need is in him. He is the only way out of all your trials, and he promises to finish the great work he began in you. Amen!